All posts by Debbie

Introducing GoldieBlox and the Dunk Tank!

We get a lot of questions here at GoldieBlox, but by far the most fun one to answer is “how’d you come up with this idea?”

While we’re pretty sure most people know how the story goes with the company, what’s just as fun to talk about are individual toys. We’re still small – fifteen people and counting – so we don’t have the kind of advanced research and development rooms that some other, bigger companies do. One day!

For now, it’s all of us in a room, being louder than usual (this is… well, a lie, we are almost always loud) ripping toys apart and rearranging them. One of the best things about being this small is that everybody on the team has input, which makes for some fantastic brainstorming. And that’s how the dunk tank was born.

We pretty much knew we wanted a water element in the next kit because, frankly, who doesn’t love playing with water? And we sort of knew that we wanted it to be a water element that anybody who played with the toy could add themselves, because, frankly, who doesn’t love incorporating splashing in puddles into every possible scenario?

We tossed around a bunch of options – water slide? Diving board? – and eventually someone said, “What about a dunk tank?”

Nobody can remember who that someone is. Four different people are saying they are. Truly a team effort, then!

So… what about a dunk tank? It’d need a target, and it could teach the hinge and lever concept in a way that also created a small mess when used effectively. But could we put it together using some of the pieces we already had?

Somebody took apart a peg board and the answer was… well, yeah. Yeah we could! Here’s a photo of what it looked like on that first day:

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 4.12.47 PM

 

For a handy comparison, here’s what it looks like now:

BT003_Nacho_PreSplash

 

A little bit different, no?

One of our advisors, Terry Langston (one of the founders of Pictionary), was there on the day we were coming up with the idea. We asked him what he remembered and he said, “Aha moments are rare, and very few are followed up with great execution. Such is the case with Goldie’s Dunk Tank. The moment Nacho splashed in the dunk tank we all knew an exciting new Goldie product was alive!”

But we wanted it to be a little different than our other kits, and ideally on the less expensive side. Turns out that the books are what cost us the most to produce, and we wanted to do something that still told a story, but that also added a new element to the kit as a whole. Andrea and Trevor, our intrepid illustrators, have created a gorgeous backdrop for the toy that you can attach to it once it’s built! Hopefully you’ll love it as much as we do.

While we were figuring out what we wanted the illustration to look like, we were holding play dates where children could come (with their parents, of course) and play with the prototype. These are incredibly useful and interesting for us (and hopefully for the kids!) because they let us see whether or not we’re on the right track, or if parts of the toy or instructions need improvement.

If you get the kit, you’ll see that one of the pieces that creates the platform for Nacho to sit on rotates entirely around; the target is on this piece, and you throw one of the bouncy balls and try to hit the target. The target swings out, dropping Nacho into the glass of water/bath tub/puddle below. One girl who was at one of our play dates built the target in such a way that it looked like it was on backwards. She could have just rotated it all the way around, but instead, she disassembled and reassembled it so it was on the right way. Her dad told us that he was astonished – he could see that she was learning about rotating objects in space, and with another couple of tries, would have an understanding of how that worked. Watching her learn spatial skills as she played was incredibly rewarding to him, and to us too!

The Dunk Tank — as well as the Spinning Machine and the Parade Float — will be available in Target locations nationwide starting at the end of this month. We hope you’ll have as much fun playing with it as we did building it!

Love,
Debbie and Team Goldie

P.S. Don’t forget to collect all the fish!

Dunk Tank Fish

What We Did (And Learned) In 2013

January:
We kicked the year off with a team of four, crammed into a tiny one-room office near Jack London Square in Oakland. Our staff included myself, my best friend, Lindsey, my sister, Stephanie and my husband, Beau. Not a single one of us knew how to produce or ship toys, yet we had tens of thousands of pre-orders to fill. In between moving our cars every two hours to avoid parking tickets, we reached out to as many advisors as we could to learn about supply chain and fulfillment logistics. We learned it all from scratch. We set up systems, built elaborate excel spreadsheets and searched for warehouses. We prepped our Kickstarter backer rewards, and quickly learned that the tools-on-the-pockets of the hoodie design was extremely difficult to source. So we ironed decals onto hundreds of hoodies ourselves. We were as resourceful as it gets, and learned the true meaning of DIY.

01Jan

February:
We moved into our first “real” office – 1500 square feet of creative space in Oakland. It seemed enormous! Each of us took a room to ourselves, but quickly got lonely and decided to sit together at a large conference table in the main room. We decorated the office with old school (extremely heavy) video game consoles we found outside. They quickly made the entire office reek of cat pee so we had to discard them. This month also was the debut of GoldieBlox at the NY Toy Fair. Our booth was literally the smallest booth at the entire show. We built it ourselves out of Ikea furniture and foam core. We met with toy stores and started writing our very first retail orders. We worked so hard that week; Lindsey actually fell asleep at the dinner table with her head in her plate. At Toy Fair, we learned we were a total oddball in the toy industry…in the very best of ways.

02Feb

March:
We shipped our first production run of toys. We rented a big warehouse and convinced our friends and help us pick and pack. We blasted Stevie Wonder and took turns riding around on a forklift. In just a few days, we shipped our toys to thousands of girls around the world. Then, we waited (very) anxiously to hear the reaction. Emails, photos and videos started pouring in with happy faces, funny anecdotes and amazing stories about how the toy had made an impact. It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life hearing how girls were starting to call themselves “engineers” and using words like “axle” in their everyday vocabulary. We learned that this idea, this dream, was going to work. And we learned that we needed third party logistics.

03Mar

April:
We won the Shopify Build-A-Business competition, where we received a cash prize of $50,000 and a trip to New York to get mentored by Tina Roth Eisenberg, Tim Ferriss, Noah Robischon and Daymond John. This month, we also welcomed Jan Hanson, the former VP of Operations at Cranium, to our team to help us scale. This was our first hire that wasn’t someone I’d known for years or was related to. Jan instantly became indispensable to our team, and a ton of fun too. April was also the month of the “dog and pony show”, where we met with about ten different banks. Somehow, our pitch got better and better the less we prepared. In addition, this month I was honored to give talks at the Stanford Women’s Leadership conference, the She++ Conference, Google’s ‘Bring Your Child to Work Day’, the Seattle Rotary Club, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers AND Microsoft. We learned that our mission was resonating with some pretty amazing people who could open doors for us. So we let them.

04Apr

May:
We exhibited at the Bay Area Maker Faire, where we got to play GoldieBlox with hundreds of kids all weekend long. We also got to meet some of our Kickstarter backers in person, which was such a treat. It was an incredibly inspiring event and we walked out of there with mile-long lists of inspiration for future products. This month, we were thrilled to be awarded the Parents’ Choice Gold and Oppenheim Toy Platinum Awards for “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine”. We also had our first company morale event at Six Flags. We ate at Applebee’s, went on rollercoasters and drove go-karts. We learned that we are all still kids at heart.

06May

June:
We saw GoldieBlox on the shelves of Toys”R”Us for the first time. It was a pinch-yourself-to-believe-it moment that I will never, ever forget. Also this month, we headed to Nashville to attend the ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailer Association) tradeshow. Yee-haw! There, we met with mom & pop toy retailers from across the US and convinced many new stores to carry GoldieBlox. We also extended full-time job offers to Andrea and Trevor, two incredibly talented illustrators who we found to re-illustrate Goldie and help take our artwork to the next level. Despite offers from Disney, they joined our team and we couldn’t be more grateful. After launching at Toys”R”Us this month, we learned what it feels like to be one tiny box on a mile-long store shelf, and how much work we had cut out for us.

05Jun

July:
We celebrated our debut in Toys”R”Us with a viral video, where we filmed a horde of little girls “disrupting the pink aisle”. When we filmed the video, we invited our Kickstarter backers to be a part of the video shoot. We had over 50 people at the Toys”R”Us parking lot, with no permission from the store to do the filming. Luckily, the store manager was so happy to see all the kids, he had someone dress up like Jeffery the giraffe and give everyone gift bags. The fact we were able to capture the video was a miracle in and of itself. Over a million views later, people started looking for us at Toys”R”Us, and girls may have started nailing their ballet slippers to skateboards. Also this month, we took a company trip to SpaceX, where we took a tour and learned how spaceships are made. It was an engineer’s paradise. We also attended Adobe’s ‘Bring Your Kids to Work Day’, where we played for hours with kids building all kinds of amazing GoldieBlox contraptions. This month, we learned about the power of a building community.

07Jul

August:
We welcomed Marjan, our eighth employee. Her title is “Dr. Do-It-All”, and it’s been amazing to see all the challenges she takes on, learning everything on the fly. We were lucky to have Terry Langston, found of Pictionary and loyal GoldieBlox advisor pay us a visit this month. After hours and hours of playing and prototyping, we came up with the idea for our third toy, which is launching in a couple weeks. Terry captured the moment of discovery on video. We learned that every team member has many unexpected talents, and that each voice helps make our products that much better.

08Aug

September:
We welcomed three new team members this month. First was Ryan, a PR-savvy transplant from D.C. and childhood friend. Second was Kaye, a social media superstar from Upworthy and passionate feminist. Third was Clint, a very experienced industrial design engineer with a newborn daughter nicknamed Katinka! All three are total rock stars and fit right in to GoldieBlox culture. Also this month, I was lucky enough to give a talk at Google Zeitgeist, where I got to meet amazing people like Malcom Gladwell, Morgan Spurlock, MC Hammer and Fauzia Khoofi. We had our Midwest launch of GoldieBlox at the Cassandra Voss Center for Gender Research in Wisconsin. We also attended the NY Maker Faire, where we got to hang out with Geena Davis, who is a big advocate for getting more girls into STEM. This month we learned about growing our team and figuring out how to get into a groove with great new people.

010Sep

October:
We launched our new illustration style, showcasing Trevor and Andrea’s amazing artistic talent. They had spent countless hours re-illustrating Goldie and breathing emotion and humor into the characters and scenery. It was incredibly exciting to unveil it to the world, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. We also launched our new website in October, where we featured girl inventors with stop motion tutorials of their contraptions. We invited girls to submit their own inventions, and were thrilled when the submissions started rolling in! Also this month, we attended the Dallas Toy Fair, where we met with major retailers for the first time, partied with our buddies at Amazon and made new friends with other toymakers. We welcomed two new team members: Chris, a sales dynamo from New York and Priya, a Bain analyst from Atlanta. We had them line-dancing and singing karaoke on their very first day at the office. Late in the month, I spoke on a panel at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, where I was lucky enough to hear Hillary Clinton give the keynote address. I also attended Fat Brain Toys’ Celebration of Minds event in Omaha. There, I was surprised and delighted to receive an honorary membership to the Society of Women Engineers. This month we learned that our new girl Goldie had what it takes to become a hit.

09Oct

 

November:
This month we shot, edited and launched a video featuring a Rube Goldberg machine made out of princess toys. In one week, the video received over 8 million views. It was featured on the TODAY show and Good Morning America and tweeted by Ellen, Barbie and Pee Wee Herman. Girls from around the globe got inspired by the video and started building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and backyards. Right after the launch of the video, I attended the Chicago Toy and Game fair where I was received the “Rising Star” inventor award. At the show, we donated one hundred GoldieBlox toys to local Girl Scout troops. Also in November, we hosted our first-ever “Junior Hackathon” event at Facebook, where employees brought their kids to participate in building activities with GoldieBlox. It was an enormous success and our whole team got to meet Sheryl Sandberg. I gave a talk at at a Women@Google event and the women at GoldieBlox joined, which was a blast. We also got the news that we were a top four finalist in Intuit’s “Small Business, Big Game” competition to win an ad in the Super Bowl. This month, we truly learned that anything is possible when you work hard and dream big.

011Nov

December:
We welcomed Jill Waller, former VP at Leapfrog, as our new CMO. Jill was an instant cultural fit – after day one, we felt like we’d all been working with her for years. In December, we finally launched our sequel, “GoldieBlox and the Parade Float” featuring a new character, Ruby Rails. We also launched our “More Than Just a Princess” t-shirts, hoodies and onesies, after receiving hundreds of requests for them since our Kickstarter campaign. We also launched an expansion pack called “Blox + Bits”. Everything sold out. This was a wonderful sign that kids wanted to build taller, bigger, more complex designs with their sets – a dream come true! I toured the US and Canada this month with media events almost every day. The highlight was getting to meet Charlie Rose. Our entire team worked around the clock and through the holidays to fulfill all of the orders. December was an absolute grind. The late nights and steadfast commitment from every single person at GoldieBlox was truly incredible. We were like a group of toy soldiers, experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. After getting through this roller coaster of a month, we learned that we aren’t just co-workers anymore, we are family.

012Dec

Reflecting upon 2013, it’s hard to believe that all of this happened in one year. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to all of the people who have made this journey possible.

I want to thank our fans for believing in us. For taking us from a Kickstarter project to the shelves of Toys”R”Us in less than one year. For being patient as we worked out the kinks and figured out the logistics. For sharing your stories, photos and videos with us – we cherish all of them. For giving us feedback – both positive and negative – we read it all and we incorporate it every day as we work to improve on everything we do. For sharing our passion. For believing in our girls and what they are capable of. For believing in us and what we are capable of. This is only the beginning and we can’t wait to keep building this dream with you in 2014.

2013

Our Letter To The Beastie Boys

Dear Adam and Mike,

We don’t want to fight with you. We love you and we are actually huge fans.

When we made our parody version of your song, ‘Girls’, we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to transform it into a powerful anthem for girls. Over the past week, parents have sent us pictures and videos of their kids singing with pride, building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and declaring an interest in engineering. It’s been incredible to watch.

Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.

We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours.

Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team.

We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.

Sincerely,

Debbie + Team GoldieBlox

Passing the Torch

Hi everybody. Debbie here. Most of you know me as the founder and engineer behind GoldieBlox. What you may not know is that I also wrote and illustrated the first version edition of “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine.”

It all started two years ago, when I first came up with the idea for GoldieBlox – a kid engineer character who would get girls into building and engineering through stories. I was inspired by my grandmother, Sterling, one of the first female cartoonists and creators of Mr. Magoo. I grew up marveling at her sketches and cartoons. In fact, I dreamed as a child of one day becoming an artist like her. Engineering wasn’t a path I ever thought I’d follow. But GoldieBlox offered me the perfect opportunity to blend my love of art with engineering! So I got to work.

Cookie_original sketch House_original sketch Katinka_original sketch

I started sketching pictures of GoldieBlox day and night. I wanted her to be spunky and cool, like Punky Brewster, Eloise or Pippi Longstocking. Once I decided on a sketch that I liked, I began inventing characters to go along with her, including some friends like Nacho the dog and Phil the sloth. And since I was a ballerina for 10 years, I created Katinka, the pink dolphin dancer. Little known fact: pink dolphins actually do exist in the wild. I had the pleasure of swimming with them during my honeymoon in the Amazon Rainforest. It was breathtaking; that is, until one of them bit my foot.

Sloth

Honeymoon dolphin

I showed some of my earliest sketches to some of my most trusted friends in the art world, who almost all gave me the same feedback: “Go hire a professional illustrator!” But I didn’t really have any money, Plus, I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t at least give it a try. So I kept going.

After a couple months, I finally had a working prototype of a book draft and a corresponding construction kit. I put it in front of kids all over the Bay Area to test the reaction. During this time, I learned countless things about how to improve the illustrations to make them more clear and instructional.  I also learned “what not to do.” For example, in the first draft of the book, I had an illustration of Goldie spinning Nacho around in the air. I didn’t expect that kids would try to emulate this very action with the heavy wooden pegboard, their own pets, etc. We had some near catastrophes.

Prototype

Because I was drawing everything myself, it was really easy to make quick tweaks here and there based on the prototype testing in order to hone in on the best product experience I could deliver. Once I felt like I’d hit the goldmine (no pun intended), I needed to take these rough sketches into actual, final book art — something I’d never done before.

Since I’m not a professionally trained illustrator, I ran up against a lot of roadblocks. Not knowing how to use illustrator programs on my computer, I decided to paint every page by hand. This process took months. I’d wake up in the morning, ready to illustrate and paint a page, get 95% there, and then make a mistake and have to re-do the whole thing. I’m really glad I went through this process because it was the only way to finally understand something about myself: I don’t love illustrating.

Regardless, I finished the first book, shared it on Kickstarter, and the response was overwhelming. It became real clear, real fast, that this wasn’t just a project in my living room anymore. I needed to build a company. Furthermore, I realized that if I was going to create a company that could grow and meet the demand of the millions of girls out in the world, I couldn’t be the illustrator anymore. I needed to be the CEO. And one of the first things that I did as CEO was search for the best illustrators I could find to “pass the torch” to.

This was no easy task.

I spent months searching for the right illustrator. At first, I was looking for people who could copy my illustration style. I quickly learned that my style is pretty hard to replicate and what’s more, it is almost impossible to animate. If GoldieBlox were to ever become a cartoon like Mr. Magoo, I needed to let go and be open to a new direction. I decided that instead of finding someone to copy me, I was going to find someone even better. Someone who could truly take GoldieBlox to the next level.

I found therm. Their names are Trevor Spencer and Andrea Fernandez, and they are an incredibly talented husband-and-wife team.

Andrea and Trevor 4

Their first sketches of Goldie gave me goose bumps. They were able to capture so much personality into their drawings – the characters were practically jumping off the pages! They were also really great at drawing in perspective so that it was so much easier for kids to understand how to build the contraptions. What I loved about them most, however, was their attention to detail. The little things, like Phil’s hair scruffed up against his ribbon hammock, or the little yellow car sitting in the Blox family garage. They put so much love and attention into their work. Their pictures tell stories, and what they are creating with GoldieBlox is magical.

 Andrea and Trevor 3Andrea and Trevor 1Andrea and Trevor 2

I started working with them on a contract basis. They were living in LA, doing freelance work for all kinds of companies including Disney. When I was finally ready to give them both full-time offers to work at GoldieBlox, they told me they had a job offer from Disney. My heart sank. How was I going to convince them to give up what is probably every artist’s childhood dream: a job at Disney?

As luck or fate would have it, Andrea and Trevor accepted my offer. With GoldieBlox, they get to help me build a brand from scratch … and not just any brand, but one that will inspire the next generation of female engineers. We get to do what we love every day AND hopefully make a real, meaningful difference in the world while doing it.

Andrea and Trevor: thank you for joining our team, moving up from LA and taking a leap of faith. On behalf of all the little girls (and boys) who will discover engineering through GoldieBlox, I could not be more proud to be passing the torch to you.  Let’s build this thing.

Kickstarter: Lessons We’ve Learned

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for your patience.  We’ve finally shipped the last of our pre-orders of “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine.” We’re rolling out into retail stores across the US and Canada. We’re up and running. Our team is expanding. We’re moving a million miles an hour, and now we are taking a moment to pause and reflect on this wild ride.

While everyone here at GoldieBlox is over-the-moon thrilled with what we’ve accomplished and, more importantly, where we’re headed, we know that with growing comes lessons and with lessons comes a little pain.

We’ve learned a lot in a fairly short amount of time and, since sharing and making learning fun is core to our mission, we figured you deserve to hear some behind-the-scenes stories of how everything unfolded.

Let’s take it back to the beginning.

As you all know, we reached our goal on Kickstarter back in October (hurray!)  What you may not know is that two weeks after our Kickstarter campaign ended, we went viral.  How do you know when you’ve gone viral?  When your video spikes from 9,000 views to over 1 million views overnight.  Luckily, we’d created a website (www.goldieblox.com) to let all the people who had missed our Kickstarter window continue to pre-order the toy. I had an email alert on my phone that would buzz every time we made a sale.  We were getting a handful of orders a day, high-fiving each time.  That is, until we went viral.  My phone started buzzing so quickly I had to shut it off. I didn’t know what was going on, I thought my phone was malfunctioning. Turns out, we pre-sold over 20,000 toys in addition to our Kickstarter orders in about a week.  While we were so excited to have so many girls to share GoldieBlox with, we were freaking out. At this point in time, GoldieBlox, Inc. consisted of two people: myself, and my very first hire, Lindsey (aka “Rainmaker”). We were inundated with hundreds of emails from various requests like changing addresses to cable news channels inviting me to speak on their shows to stores around the world who wanted to carry the toy. And while Lindsey and I were on a marathon burning the midnight oil, it became increasingly difficult for us respond to everyone.

On Thanksgiving weekend, I drove down to Santa Barbara to spend the holiday with my family.  They were worried about me because they’d never seen me more stressed.  All I wanted to do was respond to each email, one by one. Luckily, my family decided to help out.  So instead of “pass the turkey, Uncle Mort,” we spent our entire holiday responding to emails.  I even ended up hiring my sister, Stephanie, to take on customer service full-time. She dropped everything, packed her bags, and moved up to the Bay Area to help me.  I love working with my sister.

But even after hiring my sister, our mighty team of three was not enough to figure out all the logistics.  This is when I begged my husband, Beau, to lend a hand.  Let’s just say while I’m the messy, disorganized type, he’s the guy who knows how to run a ship.  The thing is, he’d never done anything like this before.  So we all had to learn from scratch.

Ultimately, we hired a fulfillment company to help us ship all of the toys.  Like most fulfillment companies, they specialized in wholesale orders, but lacked the knowledge of shipping individual orders.  This ended up in a catastrophe.  Our worst fears came true when retail stores started getting their toys before some of our earliest customers: you guys.

When we found this out, I had a panic attack.  We rushed over to the warehouse to pack the boxes ourselves in an effort to speed up the shipping process. (I still have packing tape in my hair.) For those of you who were affected by this, I am truly so sorry. It was not our intent and it was a hard lesson learned.

Now that you sort of get the idea of how everything came about, know how we spent our Thanksgiving, and that we have an Uncle Mort – we wanted to share with you our takeaway points.

Communicate Consistently, Honestly, and Openly.

We’ve learned that you guys, our biggest supporters, deserve to hear from us more.  It would have been helpful for us to give you a weekly behind-the-scenes look into our world while providing you with honest insights into our progress: the good, the bad and the ugly.  We’re committed to getting better at this. We are now updating on FacebookTwitterYouTube and our blog constantly, so please subscribe to stay in the loop.

Shipping is a beast. (Like Creature from the Black Lagoon, scary.)

We’ve learned that shipping internationally is way harder than we thought.  We even had to remove the option from our website until we can become a great fulfillment partner.  This doesn’t mean we’re giving up. We just need to beef up on a few things before we attempt to tackle it again. We’re starting with Buffy on DVD and plan to go from there.

Kickstarter is tricky.

The Kickstarter platform also caused some issues.  The process of sending out surveys to collect your addresses proved incredibly difficult to manage. We hear they’ve upgraded their tools since our campaign. Unfortunately, we were stuck with an incredibly complicated system that made it a huge challenge to collect everyone’s data.  In fact, we’re still catching up on this!  If you have not received your toy yet, it is because we don’t have your address. Please email Stephanie (my sister) at service@goldieblox.com.

This is our passion.

We put our heart and soul into this initial toy production.  We learned how logistics work using ugly crayon drawings. This Kickstarter project carried that passion over to all of you backers, making it an unforgettable experience.  It took a while, but we’ve still got our soul. There’s nothing like the first time.

The world is ready.

Ultimately, we’ve learned that the world is ready for this idea.  Engineering toys for girls are here to stay. We’re working hard on our product development, making improvements to the first toy, getting the next ones ready to ship, and dreaming up new adventures for Goldie.  The good news is that we are now up and running.  There’s so much in store for our company and more importantly, for your girls. The future is bright.

Thank you for sticking with us.

Love,

Debbie

Notes from the Assembly Line

This Monday I woke up early, checked my email, and found out that our production completion was a week ahead of schedule (wahoo!). This meant I needed to head to the factory ASAP to do a final quality control inspection. I already had a flight booked to Hong Kong for the following week, so I checked online to see if I could get an earlier flight. Indeed, the only flight option that was even remotely affordable was leaving in 4 hours. So I booked the flight, threw some clothes in a bag and raced to the airport. And since I booked the flight that morning, it should have been no surprise that I was in the very last row of the airplane.

Luckily, the seat next to me was empty, but one seat over was this very strange looking man. Well, actually, I’m not sure what he looked like because he was wearing the blue airline blanket over his head and body like a hijab. As soon as the plane took off, the strange robed man proceeded to lay out across the entire row, his socks practically in my lap. Even after a good 45 minutes of the worst turbulence I’ve ever encountered, this man still would not move. How come he gets to lay down and not me? Don’t ladies typically get the right of way in this scenario? About halfway through the 14-hour flight, the man finally got up to use the restroom. Now was my chance! I sprawled out across the row, double blankets and pillows in place. He returned with a scowl, nudged me and said, “Hey, I was sleeping.” So I retorted, “Yeah, and now it’s MY turn!” He relented, and I lay there, unable to sleep, wondering how many hours had passed since my last dose of Dramamine.

Seven hours later, the plane landed at Hong Kong airport. I wandered through immigration like a zombie, and was proud of myself for figuring out how to take the train to my hotel instead of a taxi. The only thing on TV to watch in English was “Con Air,” so I watched that, trying not to think about how much my plane mate resembled “Cyrus the Virus.”

Dennis, my brilliant engineer contact from the factory, picked me up from my hotel the next morning to escort me to the final assembly check. The trip to the factory is long. A ninety minute cab ride, followed by long lines at the immigration portal, followed by another ninety minute cab ride. Sometimes I think Dennis pretends to know less English than he does to avoid my annoying small talk. Nevertheless, I ascertained that he’s been married for 10 years, no plans for kids, heading to Japan with his wife for Chinese New Years and likes photography. When we finally arrived at the factory, my stomach was growling. Dennis gave me a bottle of water. I wished it was a bottle of cookie dough.

IMG_1179IMG_1176IMG_1178IMG_1180We headed upstairs to check out the assembly line. And there is was: GoldieBlox. Thousands of wheels getting Velcro-glued on by hand. Enormous bags of dolphins, sloths and dogs, getting cleaned and inspected, one-by-one, and sealed into little plastic baggies. I stood there for a moment in an absolute daze, kind of like a euphoria mixed with disbelief. This is really happening. It was absolutely surreal.

Dennis brought me the first toy off the assembly line to inspect. I took all the pieces out of their baggies – they were all there and they all looked perfect. I flipped through the book – all the pages were there in the right order. Then, I started to play with the toy. I stuck an axle into the pegboard hole and…oh no. My heart sank. It was too tight. My mind started racing. I looked to Dennis in despair. He said, “Oh yes, board too tight.”

“WELL THEN WHAT DO WE DOOOOO??” I screamed (in my head). We had gone back and forth seven times to get this board right. I was in a state of shock. Then, Dennis brought out a bag of axles from his desk and told me to try one. It fit perfectly. Turns out, the axles differ in diameter slightly, and I had pulled a thick one. We measured the axles with calipers and found that they were all between 0.598mm – 0.605mm. Anything 0.603mm or greater would be too tight. Dennis assured me he could go back through all the axles and discard any that were 6.03mm or greater. Problem solved. Oh man am I happy I booked that earlier flight! PHEW!

By the time I was leaving the factory to go back to my hotel, all the workers were hanging outside, changed into their regular clothes. They got to leave work early that day for a big company dinner party. They all looked really happy. It made me feel good. I headed back to my hotel solo, via taxi and train, with hours to reflect on this amazing journey of GoldieBlox. We are off to a good start. Now, I wonder who’s gonna sit next to me on my plane ride back?

A Wild Ride.

We just went from 0 to 1000 MPH in 6 weeks. In that time GoldieBlox raised over $285,000 on Kickstarter, got published in over 70 publications and blogs including The Atlantic, The Guardian and Forbes, won three awards at the World Maker Faire in New York, pitched on the main stage in front of 2,000 people at SOCAP, was featured on a panel run at the New York General Assembly, among many other things that would make this blogpost just way too long.

In all of this our team learned a lot of lessons. Our greatest lesson? Never underestimate the power of people. When you are a company, a brand, you have to treat your early adopters like family. They are the ones who will be most forgiving as you go through growing pains, who will be your cheerleaders even if you slip up, and who will feel your highs and lows as if they’re their own highs and lows too.

So to our Goldie family, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. We’re working hard to make sure that GoldieBlox leaves its mark on society, and we know you’re sittin’ shotgun with us.

SOCAP, Here we come!

Big news, everybody: I have been awarded a scholarship to attend the SOCAP Conference the first week in October! I will be one of the featured entrepreneurs — here is my profile. This is an awesome opportunity for me to explore the impact GoldieBlox can make and get to know other entrepreneurs who are also going for more than just profit.

SOCAP asked me many questions about myself and my drive to start GoldieBlox. It really got me thinking about the issue that we’re addressing, and why should people care. I mean, why does it matter that more girls get into engineering?

Well here’s the thing; engineers affect everything we do on a daily basis. The fact that you are all able to read this post right now on a computer/phone/ipad is thanks to a the collaborative effort of many generations of engineers. The shower you used this morning, the mode of transportation you took to work, the vending machine you got your mid-morning snack from, the satellite your text message to mom bounced off of; all built by engineers.

So engineers determine a lot of our daily activities. They are also 89% male. That means that men, who make up half the population, are making decisions for 100% of the population. We’re missing the perspective of the other 50%. Well, 51% to be exact.

In order to build our future responsibly, we need the female perspective in engineering. We need to give our girls the chance to contribute to their world. Unfortunately, as it stands, most girls lose interest in math and science by age 8. Math and science are the backbones of engineering. While boys have a plethora of science-loving role models to follow, from Sid the Science Kid to Bob the Builder to Thomas the Train to Jimmy Neutron, our girls have none. Goldie is here to give them one.

Will all girls who play with GoldieBlox grow up to be engineers? Probably not, but that’s not the point. Do all boys who play with Legos and watch Dexter’s Laboratory become engineers? No, but that’s because it’s a consequence of choice, not of ignorance. In order to get rid of the ignorance, we need to open up the world of engineering for our girls from a young age. If they then make a choice to become a world-traveling journalist, fantastic, but at least they will have made the choice. GoldieBlox gives our girls the ability to choose their own path and build their own future.

We launch in less than one week from today through Kickstarter. You can help your girls become the builders of their own destiny. By signing up to be a Goldie Ambassador here, you are given the tools to help spread the word and get Goldie in the hands of as many girls as humanly possible. Help us give choice to the next generation.

Prepping for LAUNCH

September 18th. Mark your calendars. GoldieBlox goes live to the world on Kickstarter.

In just a few short weeks, you’ll finally get to see the girl, the product, the idea, the glory, the mystery that is GoldieBlox! We promise not to disappoint.

In the meantime, bear with us as we secure our intellectual property and build our army of GoldieBlox fanatics who will spread the word to every corner of the earth.

Come join our troops. We’ll give you some basic training and all the tools you’ll need to help us with a little toy industry shakedown. Pink aisle at the toy store, BEWARE.

Filming Goldie

I first met Debbie when she was giving a speech at a local youth leadership camp that I was a junior crew for. Despite it being my responsibility to tell my students to listen, I was feeling the exhaustion of the 8 straight hours of presentations and activities and came into the speaking hall scheming of ways that I could sleep without any of my students or other leaders noticing. My schemes never were needed however, for just as Debbie began talking about her life and GoldieBlox I realized that even if I tried I could not pull myself away from Debbie’s inspiring and passionate presentation about GoldieBlox. As her talk came to a close I thought to myself, “Lilly, she is the one”. Now you might be thinking that the next thing I did was jump up on stage and propose..no no. I realized that day that Debbie was starting something absolutely incredible and her passion and personality would separate GoldieBlox from all the other great ideas that people have. So when I told myself that Debbie was “the one” I meant she was the Oprah to my Tyra, I dreamt that she could be the person I could look up to. So I got all the guts that I had (and sleep deprivation also probably helped) and I walked up to Debbie at the end of her speech, spilling out which seemed like a nervous jumble of words, “Hi..I’m Lilly..love GoldieBlox..summer..work..internship?” After a few moments of awkward silence in which Debbie tried to piece together what I was saying, a miracle happened, she gave me her email (which is equivalent, i’d say, to digits for a guy). And the rest is history.

So for the past couple of weeks I have been in bliss, working at one of the best companies in the world doing what I love best, making movies! At the start, Debbie assigned me to do a video series in which young girls (Goldie in a sense) would interview successful engineers who in their own way broke the “engineer stereotype”. We first set out for our search of the “perfect Goldie” we scoured Craigslist and  audition postings and even tried cold calling modeling agencies. After finding our  first Goldie we scheduled an interview with the magnificent Ian Bennett, a young CEO of a company called Simpirica Spine. Maya and I spent hours thinking of questions and planning out the segments of the video. I then put my own mental health at risk from the fatal fumes of Sharpie markers when I started making cue cards for our Goldie, a young girl, Johanna who to my excitement (and jealousy) had been apart of a Sundance movie. Finally on the day of the shoot, we all met on site at an abandoned office building in SOMA. I was sweating bullets at the thought of directing the shoot, the only people I had directed in the past were my funny bunch of friends who didn’t need much directing as the basis of most of my short films consisted of the usual teenage drama that occurred naturally. Once on set, however, the shoot seemed more of a party (i’m serious)  than a serious movie set; we were laughing, dancing around, even doing handstands and backflips (no joke). Currently i’m preparing myself to go into isolation so I can start and finish editing these videos by the end of the month. Looking forward to it (and I hope you guys are too!)
‘Til next time
Lilly Tahmasebi